Facing public opposition, Lebanon City Council sets aside proposed homelessness ordinance
LEBANON - Opponents of a plan to ban people from city-owned lots and parks after dusk laid into the City Council Wednesday, leading the council to set aside the proposed ordinance.
According to the Valley News, about 100 people attended a public hearing and more than 40 people spoke against the proposal, which would have made it illegal to camp overnight in a city lot for more than two hours between dusk and dawn. Violators would have faced a $100 fine and could have had their vehicles towed.
Opponents argued the plan criminalized homelessness.
“This is a serious social problem that’s best addressed by compassionate social workers and social welfare agencies, and not the police and the courts,” said Shawn Donovan. He asked that the city provide water, toilets and a dumpster for people to use, rather than evict anyone.
A local minister, the Rev. Steve Silver, said he came to the Upper Valley because he saw it as a place where people took care of their neighbors and helped one another. “This proposed ordinance, to me, strikes against the heart of our community and who we are. I believe we can do better than this.”
The ordinance wasn’t facing only local opposition: the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire wrote a letter to the city on Friday, calling it unconstitutional.
Rather than move forward with the proposed ordinance, the council said it will consider setting up a task force to find other ways to address the issue of homelessness in the city.